The Principal of Business

Tuesday, 1 December, 2009

So I didn’t write fifty thousand words of fiction in November this year. I was (to understate things) out of sorts, not feeling a need to meet that goal again, not becoming excited about anything I was writing, and suffering the general resurgence of that good old no-follow-through, goal abandonment habit of mind.
No point frowning about it; I wrote over twenty thousand words of new stuff and tried some new things. A word count goal is no longer the only kind of goal I need. I didn’t get excited but not because the writing couldn’t have been exciting, rather I didn’t give myself the chance. I’ve learned and played and maybe there are germs of potential somewhere in that 20k, all’s good.
Not so good is the why.

I know I can write that fifty thousand words, I’ve done it before, what I haven’t done is produce a complete draft, stay committed to an idea and see it through to the end. Fear of not making it, fear of what happens if I do and it’s no good, fear of making something that could be good but letting the work down, fostering whisperings that me, my contribution and the world just aren’t worth the work. That’s not just writing stuff, that’s life stuff. Fear, insecurity, pointlessness. I decided a while back not to let that web of thinkings run my life. I’d make a decision and stay committed, I got good at doing it and reaped the rewards, but then, out of sight of the mess that fuelled the change, I got lazy, then paralysed.

November isn’t my problem, it’s the rest of the year. Writing isn’t my problem, it’s the way I’m living my life. So I do what’s worked before: little aims, little goals, little successes, little confidences, and they all add up. “Do something” was the slogan. Something, anything, just don’t stand still. I’m not saying anything new, it just helps to say it again, restate a purpose, draw a line and refocus on what I want and how to get there.

So… ACTION:

– Look through my stuff and identify interesting bits, bits I like, run with ideas
AND (not then)
– Keep up the general playing/experimenting in all scribblings
AND
– Write at least 300 words a day on any project
AND
– Commit to a long term draft once I’m excited again
AND
– Fewer distracting, nervous-energy-sapping journallings

Right. Onward. Hello, December.

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Wotcha

Monday, 7 September, 2009

Net-less as my new abode is, this place has taken a seat so far in the back it’s in the boot with the spare tire. No, it’s playing cards with the ushers. No, its arse is in the holy water. (Can I stop yet?) If something isn’t staring me in the face it might as well not be in the world. Or at least it won’t get used. (Bear witness, expensive John Lewis juicer: your eons of collecting airborne toast crumbs under the sink will come.)

Work, life, work, life, etc, etc.

– – –

PLINTH
Video diary is coming. Before J plants his feet up there, I swear it.
Proper plinth updates are coming. I would very much like to briefly wave back at Matt and his wicked response before I start collating and reflecting and generally following up on stuff.

– – –

WRITING

Much compulsive journalling, many odd-lines-that-don’t-fit-anywhere-really, the usual life/world/people observations. There are some startings of things but no middles or endings. Lots of notes for other things. No big project. I need a big project. (Happily acknowledging my status without actually taking steps to rectify. Until today. Kind of. Maybe. Gragh.)

Less concentrated time due to work has frustrated the hell out of me and in general prompted me to become more alert to opportunities to use the hours I do have usefully. When it comes to scribbling this isn’t so easy. (I biro notes at the desk on scraps of paper used to transit items to other libraries having been unable to cultivate the habit of carrying a tiny Moleskine in my bra.) And allow me to be obvious: inspiration strikes with irritating regularity at wholly inconvenient times and it’s fucking maddening. Especially given my lack of anything approaching memory. Whispering prompts to myself, making up mnemonics, until I can sit down with a pen and… evaporation. Yes. Thank you. Welcome to trying to be a writer. What’s the main course?

One thing I’m slowly learning is how better to use library work. I’ve been snatching and hoarding anything of interest, committing to nothing, growling at time and effort and print. Comparison is the agent of unhappiness. (That’s not mine.) Time is an achievement. Effort is worth itself. Print is a bonus. I love eclecticism and bitesize distractions, my attention span demands them, but eighteen books on loan is too many books. (But one can never have too many books.) Oh… sigh :)

Organisation is at a level of absolute zero. The Should-be-useful-but-is-just-unsurprisingly-stressful Database of My Adult Life’s Work is under the sink with the juicer. Vaguely looking back at previous years’ meanderings. Conflicting instincts as to what to do with interesting things have me paralysed and procrastinating, which is pretty much my natural state.

But! Many fun things are happening in lives of writerly friends of mine including gorgeous prose, poetry printing, filmmaking, play submissions, travel writing, blogging… All lovely and encouraging and not-at-all intimidating. Really, it’s inspiring. That’s the response I choose to own. (Begone, demons of self-flagellation and envy!) The little group I love swirls in a wider orbit and will no doubt converge on November for Nanowrimo. On this point I’m pretty sure I won’t be taking part as per the brand-new-project but I quite want to commit to the word count, or at least some structure. I don’t need the certificate but could use the camaraderie.

– – –

And that’s enough for now.
And how are you?

Poking Prose

Tuesday, 12 May, 2009

Posting about: Script Frenzy, editing prose/database, writing group.

With Script Frenzy over and done and won, thank fuck, I’m back to prose. Sick of script-writing. Sick of all my ideas for scripts. Sick of being jealous of ‘Mad Men’. Sick of wondering whether I got anything out of April on the writing front, which of course I did, but wonder wonder anyway.

Current project – only project – is to assess what I have in the way of prose, hack it up, mash it together, squish it into shape and glare at it. In stages.
1) Type up everything ever, or at least everything from the last two-and-a-half years.
2) Put everything into Scrivener or similar projects for easy access/editing.
3) Assess common themes and repetitions and conceptions of bigger, valuable projects.
4) Put things in some kind of order and hierarchy, based on theme and medium (i.e. long prose, short prose, prose poem, poem, random dialogue).
5) Edit things so they is good.
6) Glare at it.

Stage 6 is really just a place-holder. What I probably mean is either “cry/panic because all of it is shit”, “panic/cry because some of it could be good but will be loads of work” or “panicry because my brain has sploded”.

Times like this it’s great to have friends who know how nuts this stuff is.
With the end of Script Frenzy – and my vow never to ML any OLL events ever again ever, no matter how many Oscars and poems I get – comes the dawn of a new era for our writing group, newly dubbed Scribblepool. I bloody love these people. All the friends I made off the back of Nano last year, plus all the friends made in the fug and haze of Screnzy, all up for supporting each other and feedbacking and hanging out and discussing The Process. I’m so grateful for you, little guide rope on the cliff face.

Script Slog

Tuesday, 14 April, 2009

Back on-topic for the blog and I’m at a cross-roads in the middle of Procrastination Hell during this my third Script Frenzy. In 2007 I was writing for cinema (‘Embassy’) but barely scraped 8,000 words; in 2008 I adapted a ‘failed’ Nanowrimo idea (‘Paragon’) for TV and got the 100 pages but didn’t get a complete draft; this year it’s back to the big screen again with ‘The Centre’ and although I’m at the halfway point and ahead of schedule… what’s a hyperbolic synonym for “slog”?

It’s not that I don’t like the idea or the characters, rather I like them too much, or at least I like the idea of the idea too much. I’m too wed to my ideas about the characters. Also, it’s not plot-driven. There are things that need to happen, sure, but there isn’t the unstoppable force there was behind last year’s action-sci-fi, nor the scope for writing speculative dialogue that directors/actors/viewers can then ascribe meaning to, leave things open for the rest of the season. It’s got to be self-contained. This thing I’m trying to do is about a people and a place and I’m having to be more economical than is my wont.

And finally, the 100 pages goal does exceedingly well at providing my shrieking inner editor with more ammunition. (“It’s only 100 pages, it should at least not suck!” Or: “Good god, woman, it took you two weeks to write fifty pages? They better be bloody Brecht!” And my personal favourite: “Just what is the point of even doing this if it isn’t going to be good enough for anything?” GAH.)

So here, now, at the halfway, on the hump, at the top of the hill, is my pep talk to myself.

1) What was your aim going into this Script Frenzy? It was to get a complete draft. Not a great draft, not a special draft, not even a decent draft, but a complete draft. You have never completed a screenplay. Never. This will be the first time ever that you come out of either Nanowrimo or Script Frenzy with a complete, self-contained piece of original work. Writing something from beginning to end, that’s what you’re proving. Put the inner editor back in the crypt of St Peter’s. She was happy there in November.

2) John is real. Being him isn’t difficult. The place he lives, it’s down the road. His family, friends, colleagues, enemies… they did all this stuff already. You’re only telling what’s already happened.

3) John is not real. You don’t owe him anything. If you need to twist him to get to the end, twist him. If you need someone to be someone else, damn it, just do it. The end is boss. We’re not going on some journey of character-discovery, not in the first draft. We’re only going to the end. (See, it’s only over there!)

4) Self-sabotage is not a good look for spring. You want to screw something up, wait for winter, at least you can wear blankets everywhere.

5) STOP BLOGGING, TWEETING, WATCHING, EATING… JUST BLOODY TYPE! TYPE, WOMAN!

New New Year

Thursday, 8 January, 2009

Posting about: Current writing habits / 101 Things writing goals / Writing database

Writing has been sporadic to say the least. The usual journal-ish bits, spurts here and there, odd lines I come up with or ideas for ideas, but nothing structured, and no structured working pattern. I’m not sure any of that is necessarily bad, though. I seem to need to not do things properly for a little while to remind myself how much I want to do them. Similar to my mentality re. fitness and nutrition: if I miss something, I scramble to get it back. Absence/heart proverb etc.

– – –

101 THINGS

I signed up to 101 Things in 1001 Days and these are the goals I have down under ‘writing’:
007) Write a complete first draft for Script Frenzy 2009
008) Write a complete first draft for Nanowrimo 2009
009) Write 101 pieces of short fiction and/or vignettes (000/101)
010) Do Poster Poems every week for a month (0/4)
011) Turn a bit of family history/memory into fiction
012) Journal every day for a month
013) Take part in a writing festival
014) Submit a piece of writing for publication/production
015) Leave a couple of lines of poetry lying around in public every day for a week (0/7)
016) Put together my writing database

+ 007 is exciting and do-able. Thinking I might do a stage play, completely free myself from all the distractions, (i.e. desire to direct the thing Right Now,) that come with writing for screen-type things. Read the rest of this entry »